A/N: Spoilers for Episode 3 'Commodities.' A little introspective look at Athos's character, my favorite musketeer. Why isn't there a bigger fall out for him of that episode yet, I don't know. he just seems to have accepted the fact that 'oh the woman I loved and had killed is very much alive and wants revenge.' Ughh. Still it's early in the season and the series so we can't be too critical...
Disclaimer: I don't own The Musketeers. That privilege belongs to the BBC.
The Measure of a Man.
Athos had complete and utter faith in Aramis and Porthos. They were his brothers in all but blood. They had laughed with him, drank with him, cried with him, fought with him, bled for him and they had moved the earth and skies to answer when he called.
They were no doubt the greatest friend a man could ask for. But they were not his confidants.
"There was someone special once, she died. That's all he ever said."
It was a daunting prospect, knowing that he had the absolute loyalty of the two of the greatest men he had ever known and that they would die for him in an instance. He did not think he deserved it, he was not the man they saw him as. But he strove to live up to their expectations; they looked up to him as a leader, he intended to make sure that they were proud to call him that.
If that meant being unflinching in the face of pain and death, he would do it. If that meant putting a brave face while he was hurting, he would do it. If that meant suppressing his own grief and being there for them instead, he would do it. If that meant marching into hell with his head held high, he would do that too. He would do it all, and he would smile throughout.
And then there was d'Artagnan.
He did not owe Athos anything. But when Athos looked at him, he saw the familiar awe and respect shining in his eyes.
He was an ignorant fool, a naïve farmer's boy who would idolize anyone without thought, Athos told himself.
Until d'Artagnan had walked into a burning mansion with his name on his lips, and dragged him out.
Athos had been a wreck. The hatred and desire for revenge burning is his dead wife's eyes had sent him over a brink he wasn't sure he could come back from. He had bared his throat to her, content to die by her hands than to live on with the pain and grief. He had remained on the floor while his childhood home burned around him, not willing to move or save himself.
He was a man of the law, sworn to uphold it and to hand out justice to those who were found wanting. In his own eyes, he was a condemned man. He deserved to burn.
But then d'Artagnan had burst in and carried him out. He had saved Athos, and not just from a burning building.
Athos had knelt on the wet grass and poured out his heart to him. He had told him his darkest secrets and he had pushed him away. But he had remained, resilient and stubborn, quiet but firm. Athos had broken down in his arms then, crying tears he had held onto for five years until his eyes ran dry and he passed out from sheer exhaustion.
He had woken up in an unfamiliar bed, a wet cloth on his forehead, a glass of water on a small table beside him and d'Artagnan fast asleep, propped up against the bed with his head on his knees. His head was splitting and there had been smoke in his lungs. But he was satisfied. Finally someone would see him for the monster that he was.
But d'Artagnan had looked at him, helping him up and handing him the glass of water and instead of the disgust and repulsion he had expected, all Athos had seen was the same respect in his eyes, burning now with a greater intensity than before.
Athos had been baffled. He hadn't been able to stop himself from asking then. "Why?"
Why had d'Artagnan saved him? Why was he still here? Why did he still respect him, a broken shadow of a man?
And d'Artagnan had looked at him and understood the question. "Because you are a friend."
Athos hadn't been able to meet his eyes then, his own flooding with tears that had nothing to do with heartbreak and betrayal and everything to do with gratitude and affection. D'Artagnan had afforded him his moment of weakness, again without judgment or even pity.
On their way back to Paris Athos had talked. He had talked like he hadn't in years, about everything and nothing. He had told the young man riding beside him about his childhood growing up in a mansion full of servants and a bustling town where everybody knew and loved him. He had told him about hunting with his brother Thomas, and how they young man had looked up to him. He had talked about how he had joined the musketeers having proven himself by saving Captain Treville's life. He had told him of the young woman whom he had saved from bandits while on patrol; he had told him of how she had been the most beautiful lady he had ever seen and how he had fallen in love with her giving her his heart, his hand in marriage and his name. He had told him of the days after, when he had been the happiest man alive with the woman he loved. He had told him of inconsequential things, of silly things, and d'Artagnan had listened. He had not offered empty, meaningless words of comfort, he had simply listened in silence.
As they had neared the palace and spied upon the Spanish agent whose trail they had been following, Athos had felt lighter than he had felt in years. He knew there was no need for him to ask d'Artagnan to keep all that they had talked about to themselves but he did so anyway.
"D'Artagnan, say nothing to the others of what happened."
And d'Artagnan had simply nodded, unhesitant. "You have my word."
Athos had known many great men in his life. His father, the captain, his friends, he would lay down his life for them. All these men had made an impression on him.
But he suspected he would never meet a man as great as d'Artagnan. The man who gave his loyalty without question, the man who was a friend before anything else. Yes, Athos trusted Aramis and Porthos with his life. But it was young d'Artagnan who had his confidence.